December 8, 2009

Family Strategies to Enjoy the Holidays

By Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

The holiday season should be a time of joy and creating memories to last a lifetime. Instead it often is a time of stress for parents who try to create the perfect holiday or who worry they can not provide enough to make the holiday memorable for their children.

As families find themselves in the middle of the holiday preparations during tight financial times, financial worries will continue to build. The American Psychological Association's (APA) Stress in America survey finds that Americans cite financial concerns as a leading source of stress.

According to the APA survey, approximately seven in ten Americans report that money is a significant source of stress. In addition, over sixty percent stated they experienced stress from work and the economy. More than half cited family responsibilities as a significant source of stress in their lives. With adults stressing over the economy, their jobs, and their family responsibilities, how can they handle the additional pressures of the holiday season?

Parents may not realize how much their children are in tune to the adults’ feelings or how much stress the children themselves are feeling. Parents should pay attention to the stress their children may experience during the holidays. The APA Stress in America survey found that “children are nearly two times more likely to worry about financial concerns than their parents realize. Specifically, 30 percent of youth say they worry about their family having enough money, while only 18 percent of parents report that this is a source of stress for their child.”

Since our children are reporting stress and concerns about money, parents need to be role models for managing stress. Please take time to consider the following strategies to manage holiday stress and enjoy the season with your family:

~ Plan self-care and personal time into your schedule. Spending some time on yourself can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

~ Dance with your children (at home, of course) or take time for recreation. Physical activity can help relieve stress.

~ Think about the meaning of life. Ask your children what they think is important. Be sure to pass on family stories when families had to make do with a lot less. Find a favorite holiday story to read; the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are good choices.

~ Try to take some off. Spending time with family and friends is important. Plan a time for family baking or decoration making and expect to make a mess.

~ What better way to teach your family the meaning of life than to volunteer as a family. Helping others who are less fortunate can put hardships in perspective and can build a stronger family.

~ Holiday traditions are great, but if observing them adds too much stress, create a new tradition. As the saying goes, “If we do it twice, it is a tradition.”

~ Ask the children which observances they like the best. Let each child pick an activity each week.

If holiday stress starts to get you down, remember the 2008 responses of 4-H club members when asked what they enjoyed the most about the holiday season. Over 90% responded that the best times were the times they spent with their families.

Adapted from Fighting the Holiday Blues published by Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida/IFAS:
American Psychological Association:,

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